Virtual Worlds
Virtual-world_title_o.jpg

1.Introduction

What is virtual world?

Virtual worlds are three dimensional environments in which you can interact with others and create objects as part of that interaction. How do you do that? You appear as an avatar in the virtual world: an avatar is a virtual representation of you (a ‘virtual ego’) which can take on any shape or form as you so wish. [1]

There are a range of virtual worlds to choose from which include fantasy, sport, historical and science fiction. Some are loosely based upon the real world but others such as fantasy worlds are as the name says: they are completely disconnected from the real world which is also part of their attraction.
With virtual worlds, men appear as women and vice versa. Some people choose an animal as their alter ego. Whatever you choose the aim is to socially interact with other people in new and exciting ways. This all adds to the experience.
You can communicate with another person using text, sound, graphical images and gesture. Some of the more advanced worlds allow you to use voice or touch.
Since it is computer based simulated environment, it can work on all the platform now, like MAC.OS and windows.

6 features of virtual world

1.Shared space: The world allows many users to participate at once.
2.Graphical user interface: The world depicts space visually.
3.Immediacy: Interaction takes place in real time.
4.Interactivity: The world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized content.
5.Persistence: The world's existence continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in.
6.Community: The world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups like teams, guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, or neighbourhoods.[2]

Past and present

Virtual worlds are simulated environments accessed by multiple users through an online interface. Other terms for virtual worlds include digital worlds, synthetic worlds, and massively multiplayer online games. Perhaps you've visited one already. If not, your children probably have.

Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash envisioned a futuristic virtual world called the metaverse in which characters controlled digital representations of themselves (known as avatars) in a shared online environment. This was an imagination of the idea of virtual world.
Today, instead of one cohesive metaverse, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual worlds in existence, with themes ranging from fantasy and science fiction to idealized modern environments like tropical islands, gardens, and town squares.

Most of today's virtual worlds have been built by commercial entities for entertainment purposes.
The majority are conceived of and marketed as games, but over time the term virtual world will expand to cover a broader range of uses in the entertainment, education, medical, and military industries.[3]


2.Case Study 1

Second Life

Second-Life-website.jpg

Introduction

Second Life is the most well known and largest social Virtual World today. It is a Multi-user Virtual Environment and all the things in this virtual world are user-created.[4] People create their own avatars and inhibit in Second Life. It has the Linden Dollar which is tied to the real economy. The users have to pay rent for land and earn money by selling virtual good or providing services.

History

It was created by Linden Labs and offered to public in 2003. In 2005 and 2006, Second Life became the cover story on BusinessWeek magazine and received the attention of different media. Second Life offer many opportunities to people and the users increased significantly. In 2010, 21.3 million accounts were registered but the number of actual active users is unknown. However, a blogger stated that "Second Life's actual active userbase is about 600,000" in 2013. In 2018, Second Life is less popular. There are near 54 million accounts were registered but the actual active users are about 45,000 [5].

Analysis

Strengths

1. User-created content and easy to use
All the content of Second Life is created by users. It means that the users can design their own products or services and sell them. Moreover, the building tools are easy to use. Second Life is a powerful platform for creativity. The creative environment let Second Life become a highly diverse environment. For example, it is used for education, medical, commercial and training.

2. Many opportunities to earn money
There are different opportunities in Second Life and it is downloaded for free. One U.S. Dollar equaled to around 250 Linden Dollars last year. The users can become a merchant, teacher and landlord, create experience and have a part-time job in Second Life. In 2017, there are near 60 million U.S. dollars paid for the creators.

3. The use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
The technology should be improved constantly. Linden Labs add many new technologies in Second Life such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. It is to improve the quality of experience in Second Life. This makes people immerse in it. The continuous innovation is the main reason of the fifteen years life of Second Life.

Challenges

1. Less and less actual active users
Second Life is announced for near 15 years. The competition of Virtual World is very high. Although it improved the quality constantly, it cannot attract people’s attention now. The actual active users are decreased from 600,000 in 2013 to 45,000 in 2018. If it does not have enough users, this Virtual World will disappear because all products have their own lifecycles.

2. Technical problem
The continuously improvement of Second Life such as using AR and VR results in heavy demands on computer systems to run Second Life smoothly. A fast processor, plenty of RAM and a good graphics card are necessary [6]. The Internet speed should be high enough for basic function of Second Life because it operates by streaming all data to the user with minimal local coaching frequently used data through Internet. Moreover, users should buy the devices of VR to enjoy the function of VR. Therefore, the technical problem of every user should be considered.

3. Cybersecurity concern
Most users start their business in Second Life. It means that they pay and receive money, create their own intellectual property in this. However, Second Life is effectively unprotected including the leak of intellectual property and online fraud. The common frauds in Second Life include the failure of buying Linden Dollars, fake vendors and false investment. [7]

Future

Second Life is a social Virtual World and operated for 15 years. The first main point is to attract new users continuously to break through the product lifecycle. The second main point is to intensify the origin application such as education and training by VR. The technology of Virtual Reality is related to all senses so people can immerse in it .The long-term influence of the user’s immersion experience is known as the retention of knowledge . The better application of VR and AR in Second Life will be the main development. The potential use of Second Life is let Second Life being a center for business, education and training. It means that Second Life should try to integrate itself with the real life.


3.Case Study 2

Habbo Hotel

screenshot-13425505052016-1280x720.jpg

Introduction

Habbo is a social networking service and online community aimed at teenagers. The service began in 2000 and has expanded to include nine online communities or hotels with users in over 150 countries. The service allows users to create their own Habbo character and design hotel rooms, meet new friends, chat with other players, organize parties, look after virtual pets, create and play games and complete quests. [8]

History

Habbo stemmed from a 1999 hobby project which was a virtual chat room running on Aapos’s fuse technology. The designers Sampo Karjalainen and Aapo Kyroia, branched off and developed Hotelli Kultaka with a small team of develops which launched in 2000. The developers wanted to create an international business based on the virtual hotel concept. By the end of January 2001, Habbo Hotel had been launched in beta mode. The new hotel exited beta a few weeks afterwards, aimed at the teenage market, with marketing and payment partners in place. The next hotel was launched in Switzerland a few months later, in four languages. It has since been expanded to over 31 countries in five continents. [9]

Analysis

Strengths

Moderators
Habbo’s parent company Sulake employs 225 moderators, tracking some 70 million lines of conversation globally every day, blocking inapproprate users and filtering links to black-listed sites. Sulake also works with child safety organizations and local police forces to address inappropriate behavior. Habbo’s moderation and safety systems were recognized as making the service as one of the safest social networks in a 2011 European Commisssion report. As well as working within the Habbo online community, Sulake actively contributes to campaigns like insafe and Safer Internet Day on relevant user safety issues and collaborates in more than 30 charitable partnerships around the world to educate teens about a wide range of topics including safe internet use, the dangers of drugs, bullying, etc.
Play is a vital aspect of healthy child development and is one of the main features of childhood. As Erikson (2000) wrote, “play is to the child what thinking, planning, and blueprinting are to the adult, a tial universe in which conditions are simplified and methods exploratory, so that past failures can be thought through, expectations tested” (pg195) [10]

Challenges

Paedophiles - being that its a poular virtual world for children, is a “Mecca” for paedophiles and filled with pornographic chat. Even though the company has 225 moderators scattered throughout the rooms there are not enough moderators policing these rooms for crimes. If these companies want the internet to remain unregulated, they need to start investing in the people and technology to properly police the worlds they have created through the freedom of the web.

Future

Virtual worlds are becoming one additional environment—like school, home, and the playground—where children can learn, play, and grow. The physical and the virtual are becoming interconnected; it is important for researchers to understand how this will affect children’s development and how virtual worlds can be designed to best serve children’s developmental needs. From our experience in designing the Zora virtual world and running several programs over the past 10 years with youth utilizing this software, we have gathered an understanding of how developmental psychology can inform the design of virtual worlds, which we have presented in this article. By focusing on six aspects of virtual worlds— purpose, communication, participation, play, artifacts, and rules—and looking at them through a developmental lens, we are proposing a way to think about and design virtual worlds for youth that can be developmentally appropriate. By integrating develop- Formulations & Findings Beals and Bers / Virtual Worlds for Children 63 mental psychology literature and virtual communities research, this article presents a snapshot of how ideas about children’s development can impact the design of the virtual world.


4.Case Study 3

World of Warcraft

World_of_warcraft_logo.jpg

Introduction

Blizzard first released World of Warcraft in 2004. Today, more than nine million people subscribe to the service, and the game is available in nine different languages and played in North and South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and several Asian countries, including the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Blizzard first released World of Warcraft in 2004. Today, more than nine million people subscribe to the service, and the game is available in nine different languages and played in North and South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and several Asian countries, including the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand.

WOW uses about 1.3 petabytes of data, or about 1.3 million gigabytes. That equals 2,760 500GB hard drives, and is similar to the storage space that every photo on Facebook uses.

Blizzard
Blizzard has a long track record of success in making some of the most well-known and popular games in computer history. World of Warcraft, in fact, is just part of a computer game franchise that started in 1994 with the original Warcraft game and now includes a massive assemblage of novels, trading card games, clothing, posters, music soundtracks, and even physical “copies” of in-game items. World of Warcraft, then, is not just a video game: it is a large-scale, enduring social phenomenon with a political economy worth millions of dollars a year.

If you ever wondered why it’s so hard to dislodge fans from World of Warcraft and get them to play another game, it’s because its players are heavily invested in the world.

Analysis

World of Warcraft (or WoW, as it is known) is a virtual world: a three-dimensional, visually and aurally realistic world generated by a computer, which is shared (multiple players may log on at once) and persistent (the computer continues to operate the world even if no one is logged on. It is also a massively multiplayer online game, a virtual world with a rule structure like a game, owned and operated by a company, Blizzard Entertainment, which sells subscriptions to players who log in to play the game. In it, players enter a persistent, three-dimensional high-fantasy world called Azeroth filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, warriors, dragons, and other things familiar to anyone who has read fantasy fiction. There, they create avatars who engage in quests, earn gold, and “level up,” becoming increasingly more powerful. Players can play alone against computer-created opponents, collaboratively with each other, or against each other (both one-on-one and in teams). Some activities range from extremely difficult battles against monsters called “raids” (which few players ever experience) to more casual gaming experiences like fishing, which are more like solitaire.

Challenge and Future

World of Warcraft currently relies heavily on they keyboard to control your character and communicate with other players. The tendency now is that virtual world are combine with the virtual reality. However, it does not appear that virtual reality devices operate in combination with a keyboard.  

So console-style controls would be more appropriate, as they can be operated purely by feel.  In order to take advantage of virtual reality, the game would have to undergo a rather massive overhaul of the user interface in order to integrate different features like integrated voice communication, as well as a new paradigm on character abilities.


5.Analysis

Strengths

1. Know more people all over the world
Most of the products of Virtual World are global and break through the geographical limitation. People just need Internet and devices to enter a Virtual World. People can meet different people from different cities and communicate via screens by text and voice in the Virtual World. Therefore, Virtual World provides another way for us to know some like-minded people.

2. Unlimited potential
In Virtual World, everything is programmable so there are not constraints. It means that people can design and program everything they want. Some of the revolutionary products of Virtual World are VR and AR and they still have a big room for growth. If people are creative enough, some revolutionary products will be developed so the potential of Virtual World is unlimited.

3. Creating new industry
Many people earn money from Virtual World and some new industries are created in these few years such as electronic sport and virtual business. People use real money to buy the virtual currency and some virtual currency can transfer to real money. Virtual World provides many opportunities for people. Maybe there will be more new industry in the future because of the unlimited potential of Virtual World.

4. Different and practical applications
Virtual World is applied in different areas such as medical, education, military training, entertainment and business. For example, the U.S. Military is also using virtual worlds to recruit potential soldiers, and work with military groups to develop training simulations. Universities have established locations in Virtual Worlds – either entire campuses or simple classrooms. More classes are conducted in Virtual World environment. There will be more ways to use Virtual World in the future by the constant innovation.

Challenges

1. Constant innovation is necessary
The competition of Virtual World is very high. The developing mainstream of Virtual World changes to VR and AR. The goal of VR is to fully immerse in a Virtual World so the constant innovation is necessary to have a fully immersive experience such as the expensive, heavy and big devices, lack of some senses and constraint of space (Wiltz, 2017). The development of Virtual World is endless and continuous.

2. Cybersecurity Problem
The privacy problem should be considered because a lot of information is leaked through Internet such as location and identity. Moreover, many people use real money invest in the Virtual World and their credit or debit card number should be protected. The cybersecurity should be ensured in Virtual World to avoid data breach.

3. Addict to Virtual World
There is a lot of news about addicting to Virtual World. Some research suggests that the satisfaction of Virtual World is bigger than the satisfaction of real world [11]. People may be addict in the virtual world and decrease the interaction with others in the real world [12]. People’s social skills and health may be affected by addicting to Virtual World.

4. Ethical Problems
The immersion in Virtual World can affect people psychologically [13]. It may affect people negatively because of unlimited experience in Virtual World such as cyber bullying and violent game. The perpetrator may be more aggressive and violent in the real world. The victim also may have mental illness by these experiences. The ethical problems should be considered.


6.Future

In every generation, there is a technology that defines them. From their earliest age, the next generation will be surrounded by virtual reality in all aspects of their life. In school, virtual environments will be learning grounds for biology, history, and more. At home, virtual environments will be used to keep people entertained. Shopping, human interaction, intimacy will all be influenced in some form by virtual reality. And while there is no stopping technology from gaining traction, there should be questions toward doing all of these things in a virtual world as it grows in popularity. In particular I will speak about the future in advertising, the workplace, Education, and healthcare.

Advertising

Virtual worlds will be a huge boon for future advertising. The future of advertising will no longer be of observing but will be of experiencing. You will be able to feel them and just by thinking about brands you will be able to release oxytocin, the same hormone that is generated when you are hugged! Advertisers can determine what kind of ads do we like through smart watches that capture our pulse and every ad we see will depend on who we are. Advertisers can filter out ads based on our gender, age, purchase history, brands we follow in social media, our friends network etc and thus make the entire ad viewing experience more personalized. Today, we come across several advertisements that is of no use to us. And most of them we can't even skip. Now, imagine if we get to watch only the advertisements of products we love. Space is never a problem with virtual worlds and depending upon a user's frequent visiting sites, advertisements can come anywhere. In other words, we can view advertisements on the go and be updated about the latest modifications and developments in the products we love. With a simple tap, you will be able to analyse the features of a product and the content and style of narrative in the advertisement will change as per the simulations we make! Along with virtual worlds, the other important tool that will significantly change the style of advertisements is Virtual Reality. What if you could live inside the luxury apartment before you make the purchase? Live inside, check out the floor, tiles, windows, views or even determine how comfortable you are during different climates and seasons before you make a deal! This is the future of virtual reality advertisements. Before buying a car, you can virtually ride through the locations where you will be regularly driving through and check how the car fares. You can even go into the minute mechanical levels of each component and see how they all shape up to smoothly run the car! Also, instead of interrupting people with ads, marketers can sponsor virtual reality experiences that people will reach out for.

Workplace

In all possibilities, your room will be your future workspace. You might be working with a giant corporate but you will not have to shuttle to and fro your office everyday. You can easily provide your access credentials and simply log in to a virtual workspace using your 3D avatar and move on to your work! You can meet with colleagues, take part in discussions with managers and all by just sitting in your room. Managers can easily track the performance of each and every employee without physically having to be there. So, in the future, geography might not be a barrier at all. You can sit in your own room and get employed by a firm from anywhere in the world! You can see each other and communicate, wherever you are, using facilities such as video call but that doesn't really provide you the benefits of sitting next to each other. For example, it is extremely difficult to show your supervisor or manager what problems you are facing while performing a work in your system. But, in virtual worlds, your supervisor can come and sit with you and guide you, even if he is really miles and nations away! Remember Arnold in the Paul Verhoeven film 'Total Recall'? If you have to take a break from your work and enjoy leisure time, your employer can even assign you with teams that take you for a virtual tour. You can visit any place you like and it will feel absolutely real. You will have all the memories and feelings of a person who actually visited that site in real! Virtual tours can be useful for students and explorers too. The promises of the future is mighty big indeed. In a similar way, governments too can set up virtual offices so that you can easily get all your legal requirements and questions addressed easily. There will also be virtual police stations where you can enter and lodge your complaint!

Education

Virtual worlds can severely empower distance education with virtual classrooms and universities and by remaining in your room you can attain a professional certificate of your choice. Several schools and universities already provide interactive online teaching and in the future its scope is only going to expand. You can get into a virtual classroom, attend classes and even take exams. Your professors can monitor you even better than in real life and make sure students practice no foul play during exams. Just like you can get employed by any firm in the world, you can attain a professional degree from any university in the world and in the future there will even be universities that exist exclusively in the virtual worlds alone. Even normal college going students can enhance their knowledge through virtual groups and classrooms created by experts. Students and professors can create avatars and enter into virtual classrooms run by experts of another nation and engage in productive discussions. Information will flow easily and interacting with different students and professors who deal with same topic will drastically improve the quality of education. Through virtual reality, students will also be able to relive any historical period, explore the molecular and atomic particles of any organism and even take a visit to any place in the universe! If education is power, the future generation will be full of super heroes!

Medicine and Healthcare

Establishments such as Mercy Virtual Care Center in U.S have already started the trend of virtual healthcare centers. This 125000 square foot facility has no waiting rooms or hospital beds but houses more than 300 medical professionals who watches over patients in 38 hospitals spread around seven states. Doctors direct care and provides guidance of treatment to several community hospitals and virtual hospitalists also reads and orders tests and addresses queries from other hospitals. Some doctors even stay in regular touch with chronically ill patients. Mercy Virtual's president says that the system is working really well as mortality rate has down by 40 percent less than what was expected! Similarly, Virtual Hospitals are already taking shape where e-clinics collect medical information from patients using mobile phone or computer and then pass it on to a General Practitioner at the Virtual Hub. The practitioner will then either provide a diagnosis or refer the patient to relevant Virtual Hospital Department where professionals all around the world are connected through internet. This is the beginning of a wonderful revolution in hospitals and healthcare. In the future, we can walk into an online virtual hospital using our 3D replica and consult a doctor from our home. How often have you heard someone say that you have take the patient abroad for better treatment? Or the patient could have been saved if it was possible to take him abroad. Well… In the future, you can sit at your home and avail the service of any doctor in the world! You can also get live feedbacks and suggestions when you eat something you are not supposed to or if you skip your exercise! Virtual doctors can give you timely tips on how much you should eat, what you should eat, how long should you work, how long should you sleep etc. Technology has always played a vital role in improving the life expectancy of human beings. It will continue to in the future!


7.References

Edery, D., & Mollick, E. (2008). Changing the game: How video games are transforming the future of business. Ft Press.

Golub, A. (2014) The Anthropology of Virtual Worlds: World of Warcraft, Reviews in Anthropology, 43:2, 135-149, DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2014.903150

Helmer, J., & Light, L. (2007). Second Life and virtual worlds.Learning Light Limited, 2007. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.453.9925&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Iqbal, A., Kankaanranta, M., & Neittaanmäki, P. (2010). Experiences and motivations of the young for participation in virtual worlds. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3190-3197.

Johnson, M., & Toiskallio, K. (2007). Who are the Habbo Hotel users–and what are they doing there?. In Proceedings of the Nordic Consumer Policy Research Conference 2007 (Consumer 2007).

Mandal, S. (2013). Brief introduction of virtual reality & its challenges. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 4(4), 304-309. Retrieved from https://www.ijser.org/researchpaper/Brief-Introduction-of-Virtual-Reality-its-Challenges.pdf

Mäntymäki, M., & Riemer, K. (2014). Digital natives in social virtual worlds: A multi-method study of gratifications and social influences in Habbo Hotel. International Journal of Information Management, 34(2), 210-220. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563211001099

Quackenbush, D., Allen, J. G., & Fowler, J. C. (2015). Comparison of Attachments in Real-World and Virtual-World Relationships. Psychiatry, 78(4), 317-327. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00332747.2015.1092854

Second Life Wiki. (n.d.). Scams. In Official Policies Retrieved from http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Scams

Second Life. (2018). Signups. In Stats Retrieved from http://secondlife.com/xmlhttp/secondlife.php

Techopedia. ( n.d.). What is a Virtual World?. Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/25604/virtual-world

The British Computer Society. (2006, March). Virtual Worlds: today and in the future. In Society. Retrieved from http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/3336

Verhagen, T., Feldberg, F., van den Hooff, B., Meents, S., & Merikivi, J. (2012). Understanding users’ motivations to engage in virtual worlds: A multipurpose model and empirical testing. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 484-495.

Virtual Reality Society. (2017). What are virtual worlds?. Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-games/what-are-virtual-worlds.html

Wiltz, C. (2017, April 28). 5 Major Challenges for VR to Overcome. DesignNews. Retrieved from https://www.designnews.com/electronics-test/5-major-challenges-vr-overcome/187151205656659

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License